Commissioner Elia, Chancellor Rosa, and Members of the Board of Regents:
As a caucus within NYSUT representing educators across NY state, we are writing to express our support for your efforts in modifying the New York State Learning Standards. This effort is badly needed.
We have concerns about the rollout period for these new standards. While there is a public comment period from July 2016 to October 2016, these comments will only be helpful if the standards are presented with adequate information and time to determine the age appropriateness of these new standards. Standards are important, but at their essence, they are often reduced to vague, aspirational statements. What puts “meat on the bones” is the degree to which they are specific.
For example, here is a third grade Common Core Learning Standard:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
A standard written in this way has little value due to its lack of specificity. It could be assessed at the third grade, or even collegiate level. It is simply impossible to say whether it is appropriate or not. This lack of specificity has been the source of much of the testing anxiety in New York and one of the reasons the questions on New York’s grades 38 assessments are often written years beyond the student’s grade level.
It is not necessary to write standards in this vague manner. The Next Generation Science Standards, for example, were written with much more detail. The specificity makes the standard more valuable to anyone wishing to see how these standards will drive student learning. An example of an NGSS standard, written with more clarity is:
Students who demonstrate understanding can: 3PS22. Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion. [Clarification Statement: Examples of motion with a predictable pattern could include a child swinging in a swing, a ball rolling back and forth in a bowl, and two children on a seesaw.]
[Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include technical terms such as period and frequency.]
All would agree that the science standard with the attached assessment limit is more clear. The combination of a standard, clarifying statement, and assessment boundary provides necessary detail to anyone hoping to understand the original standard in a grade-appropriate learning framework.
An educator, or parent, can clearly and easily place the standard in the context of the classroom and determine its grade appropriateness. A standard that could have been assessed at the third grade or collegiate level now becomes more defined and more meaningful with the addition of the assessment boundary, and subsequently, the value of the standard increases dramatically.
It is imperative the rollout and assessment of these new standards be effective, and this will only happen if people understand the standards in a clear and concise manner. The assessment boundary should not be considered a testing mandate, but rather a goalpost that can be used to design rich curriculum around. We strongly urge the Regents to adopt a system of attaching assessment boundaries to each standard so that stakeholders have the best opportunity of understanding the standards in a grade-appropriate manner.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at my email address.
ST Caucus Chair